Report: Chinese Construction Projects Create Opportunity to Spy on African Leaders

A new report is warning that China may be spying on African government officials from within their own buildings.The report by the FILE – Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian takes a question at the daily media briefing in Beijing, April 8, 2020.Chinese government responseDuring a May 22 news conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian strongly denounced the report, saying it was filled with “lies, illusions and ideological bias.”“We urge [a] certain think tank in the U.S. to spend more time and energy on assisting Africa with real actions instead of spreading lies,” Lijian said, according to the FILE – Construction work by Chinese state-owned firms is seen at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2, 2015.“For decades, a central element of China’s international diplomatic efforts has been cultivating strong relationships with senior African officials and giving them glitzy, brand-new government buildings,” Meservey said. “It is clearly a way of building favor with these governments. … These are designed as pieces of political influence.”His report found that Chinese companies had built at least 24 African presidential or prime ministerial palaces, residences or offices and at least 26 parliaments or parliamentary offices.Meservey said China might be looking to pick up information from third-party countries such as the U.S. when its diplomats visit African countries. He said it might be interested in gathering financial data on African countries for future investments and gaining the upper hand in loan negotiations. China also may be looking to gather useful, personal information about African leaders.“It’s possible to gather information on specific leaders, learn about their habits, their predilections, their financial situation,” he said. “Things that you could use to manipulate them or even to recruit them as an asset if either through blackmail or just knowing how to tailor your pitch to them.”

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